Category Archives: mentoring

Pheasant Hunting 2016

We are driving through Minnesota on the way back from pheasant hunting in South Dakota. It’s the second time I’ve been in this trip and it is so good for my soul. Anyone who know me know that I am not a hunter. But I am turning into an avid bird hunter, so I guess I am a hunter. 

Let the hunt begin!

Steve and Paul have been on all six trips. John Paul and Chris have been on four. This year they invited Pat McGelligot and Paul Ziolkowski. What a great time spending more time you Pat and getting to know Paul more.  

With John Paul and Paul

In typical Robertson fashion we ate very well; Steve did all the cooking. We couldn’t hunt until 10am, so after a casual breakfast we prepped lunches and gear for the day and were in our way. We hunted hard until sunset, logging 9-11 miles (thanks Fitbit) each day. Back at the cabin we had to clean birds and help Steve prep dinner. It was 10pm or later by the time this was finished and we were all very tired. I haven’t had five days of sleep like this in forever. Literally. 

Lunch at the Simon Farm

Lunch at the Simon farm

On this trip I have build wonderful, strong memories with family and friends. Cultivating these relationship is critical to my life. They are built with these six men but it also prepares me for other trips I will lead in the future with other men. The Roberson family is all about relationships, legacy, life experiences and adventures. 

With my new friend, Chris

I am so excited to get home. We all are. Men are great but family is better. Both are necessary. We all serve the same God and thank Him for the blessing that has been pheasant hunting in South Dakota. 

NBC Strong: Favorite Moment

My new favorite show has been Strong on NBC. The premise is that ten out-of-shape ladies are paired with ten of the top personal trainers in the country. Each episode has two competitions that determine which two teams go to the Elimination Tower; the loser goes home. Todd Durkin is one of the trainers, he’s part of Team Yellow with Brittany. Todd is pretty inspiring. Last December I was in San Diego with Katie on a business trip. I got to visit Fitness Quest 10, Todd’s gym (one of the top 10 gyms in the country). We worked out together and then I got to spend about 30 minutes in his office chatting about the industry and some business ideas I have. I’m very grateful for even a short time from a very busy and successful man.

My absolute favorite moment of Strong thus far happened in episode seven. Let me set it up for you. Todd and Brittney are Team Yellow. But what I haven’t told you is that both of these competitors were on other teams but were eliminated (by team Grey – remember this for later). The show had a twist. They had a competition to let eliminated trainers and trainees earn a spot back on the show. Todd and Brittany won, and they are the new Team Yellow.Durkin

In last week’s medallion challenge, Team Yellow lost and were forced to go to the Elimination Tower. The winners of the medallion challenge chose the Grey Team to go to the Tower because they hadn’t been to (the current version of) the tower. Remember the Grey team? That’s right – they had already sent Todd and Brittany home once. Could they do it a third time?

At the Elimination Tower, the Grey team went first. Wow! They set a new record of 3:24. Nicole from the Purple team says “unless Todd pulls anohter crazy stunt,” Grey team is moving on.”

Spoiler: Todd pulled another crazy stunt.

He and Brittany finished the Tower in 3:20 and the celebration began. What a win! I was shocked because they were behind by 11 seconds the entire run. Then came the moment. Team Yellow made it’s way off the tower and were standing next to the Grey team as Gabby had to say goodbye. It starts at 38:10 if you want to watch. She asked Grey team how they’re feeling and Wes, the trainer said, “We left it all out there and Todd…”. Pause. Pause. Wes is crying. He can’t finish his sentence. He collects himself. “Todd, you’re an inspiration, dude.”


A grown man fighting back tears, blown away by the inspiration of another man. I’m trying to do it justice but do yourself a favor and watch the segment.

That’s why I love sports.

Chapter 08: The Expo (The Work is Done)

It’s the day before the big race. A local exposition hall opens up to vendors and race event booths so all the runners can pick up their packets, shop for some new (or last minute) gear, and mingle with other runners. Early tomorrow morning all these expo-goers will be battling the course. Training miles have been logged. The race day prep is in full swing. The work is done. That’s why the expo is buzzing.


I’m excited to be a coach tomorrow. I’ve taken a small class of two women through an 8-week training program. They both had set-backs even in these eight weeks and yet both got the miles in to set themselves up to have successful day tomorrow. I’ve grown as a coach and I’m very proud of the athletes’ efforts.



Meeting My Social Media Chaplain

Last night I got to finally meet Jon Swanson.  I was introduced to Jon when I was following Chris Brogan and he tweeted about not being a spiritual guy, but he reads 300 Words a Day (following Jesus).  That intrigued me.  I started following Jon’s blog and I’ve been reading it ever since.  Jon and I have tweeted back and forth a bit and even started emailing last spring regarding one of my blog posts.  His writing has always challenged me with the ease in which he crafts and presents his words, really his voice. 

You can imagine my joy when Jon tweeted a few weeks ago that he’d be driving past Madison and was hoping we could make time for dinner or coffee.  We made the arrangements and last night Katie and I met Jon and Nancy at the El Dorado Grille for dinner.  We chatted for over two hours so we went next door to Ground Zero for some decaf coffee to end our evening. I’m documenting this on my blog because it was wonderful to meet a (Twitter) friend in person.  This is the world many of us live in these days, and I love it.  Additionally, I’m writing this to put a rock down and mark this moment as significant for me professionally.  Jon asked me some pointed questions about my writing and my routines that have sparked tremendous creative thoughts over the last 24 hours.  They’re not all fleshed out, I suppose I’ve only scratched the surface.  But I’m thankful tonight for meeting a mentor of mine, a pastor of mine for the first time.


Six Things I Learned on a Pheasant Hunting Trip

Two weeks ago I packed up two duffle bags into the Subaru and drove north to meet my father-in-law and some other family members to drive out to South Dakota on a pheasant hunting trip. I’d been looking forward to this trip for six years, and when I finished my masters degree this spring, Katie and her dad combined to send me on this trip as a graduation gift. What a treat!

I learned a lot on this trip. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a hunter. So naturally there was a steep learning curve here. I loved every moment of the trip and I was taking mental notes non-stop. Here’s what I learned.

Less is More

I think I packed less than anyone else on the trip. I was taking a lot of pride in “packing light” and making sure I only had two duffles. And that included all my ammo! That second duffle was heavy! But still, I bet each bag I only used half of what I brought. I think a lot of times in life we over-prepare for things. This is a big statement for me. I love preparing. I still have that Boy Scout “always be prepared” motto stuck in my head. I had been making a pack list for over a week to make sure I had everything. But less is more. Simplify, travel light, be flexible, make it work.

Me in the hunting van

Physical Preparation is Key

So the flip side: physical preparation make so much of life better. Hunting is hard work. I hunted hard. When they said to zig-zag those fields and flush out all the birds, I did it. The grasses seem like they’d be easy to walk through – not so much! Grasses were one thing, but reeds thigh-high, cattails chest-high. The places where these pheasants burrow are not easy to get to or easy to get through. Lots of leg lifts, lots of difficult footing. Additionally, I probably had one of the heavier guns. The whole first day I was doubting if I could carry this thing efficiently (and safely) for six days. Each time we got out of the van, I was prepared for what was ahead of me on the next walk. Each time I got back into the van I was thankful for my health and my physical fitness. I never once got in shape for this trip, but because of my fitness I was able to excel physically.


Team Work

By far the best part of the hunting experience was surrounding a honey hole as a group. All is quiet, a bird could flush at any moment. Some of the elder hunters were giving non-verbal instructions of where to go – yes, it kind of felt military-like at times. I was reminded of Band of Brothers continually. We would alternate roles: sometimes I’d flush, sometimes I’d be a primary shooter. We’d report back how many roosters or hens we’d flushed since we couldn’t always shoot if they were to far away. It was exciting to be on a hunt together. It was truly a team effort to be successful. Most of us work in team environments in some capacity, probably at work. But this trip had such a clear and exciting goal each day, each time out of the van. It was an excellent reminder of the importance of communication and executing a game plan to give us the best possible chance of success.20131117-205706.jpg

Family Bonds Are Worth the Investment

Family takes work. I didn’t take work to be with these guys on this trip – it was easy. But it’s essential to take intentional time like this and spend time together; obviously it helps to have a trip to go on and a goal of hunting birds helps too. But coming from a family that doesn’t hang out socially as much as the Robertsons do, it was good for me to just be in community with these men. Friends are good, family is better. Even in-laws;) I jest, but honestly I couldn’t be happier to have these guys part of the family I married into. These hunting and fishing trips are a family tradition. It’s something the guys do. Steve and Paul talked about trips they’d done for 20 years in a row. Memories and experiences are forged on trips like these. I absolutely believe that being on this trip evoked a spiritual revival in my soul. I value this trip for reasons I never saw coming.


Slow down

The first couple days I didn’t get a bird. Some comments were made, some tips were given, but in the end, I just needed to slow down. One night Grant showed a video from last year. He’s got a GoPro camera mounted on his barrel, so he had some fantastic footage of aiming and firing at these birds. What I watch was very educational. I realized I had more time that I thought to pull the trigger. I had been trying to get that gun up and fire right away. In reality, I had time to aim a little better. Sure enough, then next day I committed to a “one”-count before firing and I got my first bird. Then my second, and then I was a seasoned veteran pheasant hunter. The game gets good when you can slow it down, pick it apart, be methodical and precise. It felt great to slow the game down and win.20131117-205331.jpg

Guys, Guns and God

There’s just nothing like a guys trip. Being with men is good because men sharpen men in ways only men can. The great thing about a gun experience is… well, you shoot stuff! And you’re doing it with other like-minded men! And the great thing about God is that as far away from reality as I can get, He’s always with me, He’s always challenging me. I reflect on His Word, His plan, his presence in my life in awesome ways when I’m away from family, when I have good alone time at the start and end of my days. This was a vacation of sorts for me but it didn’t mean I turned off the most important routines to my life. In fact they were heightened in some respects. I’ll leave it at that. Guys, guns, and God was all good.


Three Words (2013)

I’ve been doing 3 Words since 2009.  I saw Chris Brogan do this on his blog and I immediately thought it was a great idea.  My interpretation is that I don’t want to just pick three words that are self-explanatory.  I want them to be a little bit cryptic and a little abstract.  I want them to beg deeper meaning and contemplation.  They deserve a story.

Because that’s what I want to be about.  Donald Miller has taught me that a good life is a good story.  A great story is compelling and life-giving.

The point of this blog post is to reflect on my goals for the new year.  I have a lot going on with grad school ending right at the same time Katie and I are expecting our third child.  Of course the grad school this is meant to launch me into a new job.  Lots of stuff going on.  That haste is well-represented in my three works for 2013.


When I think of research, organization, professionals, I think of Jim Collins.  In his seminal book, Good to Great, Collins demonstrated to me how meticulous he and his lab were in researching what difference between good companies and great companies.  I had never heard such detailed analysis of companies.  Collins knows his stuff, and many would consider him an expert in the field of business and management.  That’s where I’m going.  I’ve got a huge passion for exercise as medicine, and I’m very much inspired by the work of Collins and how I would replicate his work and research philosophy to my own.

But Collins to me also is about that book I reference: Good to Great.  There’s a distinction between the two, and I need look at that every day this year.  It’s very easy for me to focus on the good things and not ever get to the great things.  The good things make you feel good, probably because they’re easier than the great things.  I need to cut the fat, I need to streamline the process, I need to focus on the great.


The main component of this word in 2013 for me is in reference to Coach Lombardi’s famous quote: “There are three things important to every man in this locker room. His God, his family, and the Green Bay Packers. In that order.”  He was obviously talking to the team, so #3 was their job, which came after faith and family.  I know in my heart this needs to be true, and in 2013 I need to make bigger strides so that it becomes a reality.  It’s very easy for me to say, “take care of business, support the family…”  But it’s entirely different to lead each day putting faith absolutely first (lucky I’m a morning first) and family right there at #2.

Coach also is about what you first thought about – coaching athletics.  I’m a personal trainer, exercise specialist, cardiac rehab specialists.  It all comes down to coaching.  And as I launch my new business this year I want the ethos of coaching and athletics to be a strong component.

Lastly, I feel I’ve been coached in a new and exciting way via someone I met on Twitter.  His name is Jon Swanson and he runs a blog called 300wordsaday.  His writing has been inspiring and introspective.  We’ve connected numerous times via email also and his coaching has made for an excellent end of 2012, and I want that to springboard into this next year.


One of my favorite books of all time is Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart.  It’s all about Christian manhood.  It’s extremely educational and motivations.  I think in this world we need much better and stronger men in homes.  Wives need us, kids need us, other members of the family need the men to step up.  Good things (great things!) happen when men are doing what they’re meant to do – lead.  I want to examine the meaning of being a pillar in my family.  The author (Stu Weber) breaks this down in the book – so there’s a lot of room for learning with Pillar.


So there you have it.  The goal for this post isn’t for everyone to know what my three words are – what are yours?  It’s still early in the year – skip the New Year’s resolutions.  Identify three goals or three words to drive how you spend your days this year.

Three Words for 2012

Ever since 2009 I have been doing a different version of New Year’s Resolutions.  I got the idea from Chris Brogan.  Essentially the idea is to take your goals and attitudes for the year and narrow them down to 3 words.  The mission is to have most of what you do on a daily basis fall under one of the three words. Brogan takes his three words and breaks them down into more specific areas adding layers and layers of detail.  He keeps this private, and I too reserve details for myself (although this year I added some context but also added a teaser).  These three words give you a good idea of where I’m focusing my energy and workflow in 2012.



When I was thinking about my first thoughts of what I need to work on for the next year it was this: I need to take things to the next level.  I feel like I’m good in a lot of areas.  I’m well rounded in news, technology, productivity, athletics, training, etc.  Even grad school (which I started this year) started well.  I am happy with my work and I’m happy with my grades.  But as I reflect on my areas of expertise, I know that I need to challenge myself to get to the next level.  I’m a football guy.  So when I thought about myself I realized the word linebacker made sense on a couple levels.  First, a running back gets the ball and the offensive line does the work to open a hole.  For the running back to be successful, he only needs to make the right decision and then get through the hole.  This has been my life thus far – I’ve been gifted in certain areas, meaning some of the (preliminary) work has been done for me; you could say I was gifted.  I’ve made my reads, I’ve gone through the holes, I’ve been successful by many standards.  But there’s more to be had.  The next season of my life will require me to win at the next level – the linebackers.

Who do you think wins this battle?

You see when a running back gets the next level, to the linebackers, he wins when he makes a move.  Which brings me to the second point: I need to be more intentional and aggressive, I need to make more decisions in order to be successful.  At this level, it becomes a one-on-one game: running back vs. linebacker.  Let me give you some examples.  Sometimes a running back is running “downhill” with a load of steam and he can run over the linebacker.  Other times he can juke him with a fake, changing directions.  Other times he can outrun the linebacker and elude him at the last moment with a stiff-arm.  None of these are where I find myself.  This season I’ll be using a spin move.  The running back is all but fully engaged with the defender and at the last moment he spins away, leaving the linebacker empty handed (and usually completely embarrassed).  This is a deeper metaphor for some other life decisions coming up, those of which I cannot

If you don't make a move, this is what a linebacker will do to you!

discuss yet (I apologize for the teaser, but this post is more for my reflection and documentation rather than for your learning and application).  So for 2012, when I think of linebacker I think of the idea that I need to take things to the next level, continue to pursue my expertise in certain areas, be more aggressive and intentional, and then make a great move to be successful and win that one-on-one battle.




“An apple a day…”  When most people think of apple, they think of the healthy fruit which none of us eat enough of.  Lately apple has also quite often referred to the most valuable company on the planet.  Both of these references are appropriate for my second word for 2012.  This next year I need to develop the next phase of my training program and get back to some healthier habits.  I only ran one half marathon last year, down from two full marathons in 2009.  Apple this year will mean ramping up for more dedicated endurance training but I’m also adding a strength component to the routine this year.  I’ve always been above-average strong because of my work in the tree care business.  But a lot of that is job-specific and I want to change that.  I’ll be honest: some of this motivation is prideful in that I want to improve how strong my upper body looks.  I’ve never really dedicated myself to this type of training and this year it’s going to happen.  Apple also refers to the brand, the Steve Jobs success story, which anyone close to me knows I have a great appreciation for.  I’m reading Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs right now and I cannot put it down.  Apple, as an organization, is fascinating.  They “wow” people.  They put out products that are superior to their competition.  They cost more than most.  They are beautiful.  They are efficient.  They are well thought out.  Apple is simply the best.  Steve Jobs did not wake up one day and have all the answers to make the company we know as Apple.  He learned though a long career of successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses how to make Apple great.  Apple needed to be extremely organized.  They needed to continually progress and challenge the process.  They had to be innovative, and even sly as they took other people’s ideas and made them not only their own, but made them better.  So in 2012, apple for me is a reminder to pursue some healthy goals and habit and also to be organizational and progressive in my work.



Ok, I’ll admit this isn’t a word.  Stop, don’t even try to look it up, trust me on this one.  Here’s the deal: this third word for 2012 is a reference to my essential reading list for each week and it’s also a reminder.  First, the characters.  These three men represent successful business men who run first class blogs and are role models to anyone who wants to be successful.  Tentblogger is an amazing, well… blogger!  He produces some of the greatest content on the Web for people trying to perfect their craft as writers and small business owners.  He created some epic series of post last year and I count on his insights each week.  He’s been a huge influence on the techniques and strategies I’m using to launch my business.  Michael Hyatt writes about leadership, productivity, and publishing on his blog.  And he does it as well as anyone in the country.  His blog is rated #1 (by PostRank) in the area of leadership.  He has (unknowingly) mentored me from afar for about two years.  And Seth Godin writes like no one I’ve ever read.  He is quirky, he is edgy, he’s definitive and confident.  Oh, and he’s usually right.  Either you love him or you don’t, I’ll let you decide.  These three men have a single quality in common: they show up.  Each day they put fantastic content on their blogs and challenge people like myself to keep going and work on the business, the art, the craft.  TentHyattGodin is also a reminder that for me to be successful it is essential that I follow their lead, apply their writings and coaching, and continue to show up on the blog.

Seth Godin

John Saddington ("Tentblogger")

Michael Hyatt


So there you have it.  My three words for 2012: Linebacker, Apple, and TentHyattGodin.  Might you consider Three Words for 2012?  I’d love to hear them.

If I’m Doing My Job Right…

For eight years I volunteered at Blackhawk church with the college ministry.  I was a student at the University of Wisconsin and as I grew in my Christian faith, it was my desire to help build a program and a ministry where college students could build community and foster an environment where they could grow in their faith.  As a member of the leadership team, we were constantly challenged by our college pastor to replace ourselves.

The idea is that true leadership is not based around one person, but a team.  Taking this idea one step further, the goal is for each member of that team works with others underneath them and develop then next generation of leaders.  The goal is to replace yourself.

As a personal trainer, my job is to instruct and motivate my clients towards a healthy lifestyle.  I find great joy in talking through a new workout, a goal of finishing a half marathon, or scheduling weekly check-ins to monitor a client’s progress.  Personal training is a journey that the trainer and client take together.  But if I’m doing my job right, I’m working myself out of a job.  This may seem counterintuitive.  But I’m not interested in keeping a client for 3, 5 or 10 years.  Even as a business model, I would not consider myself successful if I was still training a client for that long of a time.  This is because I value education and take great pride in teaching my clients the principles of training and discipline that lead to and sustain an active lifestyle.

On this particular blog, I find this message very applicable.  Some of my former clients read the blog.  Other potential clients may be reading the blog.  The point is that I want to establish a platform in person and online where I am a continual resource for exercise training methods and best practices.

So wherever you are in your fitness journey, this is an invitation to engage with this website.  If I’m doing my job right, I’ll educate and inspire you to make healthy choices.  After awhile you may not need my services anymore.  But your friends will.  And so you’ll send them a link and get them started on their fitness journey.  I’m always trying to do my job so well that I’m needed less and less.  If you’re still around, it’s because you want to be – not because you need to be.

Oak Pruning Translating To Life Lessons

Many days of the week I say to myself, “I wish people could see what I see.”  As an arborist, I am daily in the upper portions of a tree’s canopy which gives me views of neighborhoods, cities and towns that most citizens will never see.  What’s the highest you’ve ever climbed in a tree?  Routinely I’m up 50-70 feet in the air.  If you’ve ever been in tall buildings and looked out the window, you a little bit  of what I’m talking about.  The view is just so different that what we see on a daily basis.

When I get really high in an oak tree, I notice things the average person would never see.  I also have a trained eye when I’m up there because I’m looking for dead wood to trim from the tree.  Sometimes the dead wood is really obvious because the bark is pealed off.  Sometimes it’s obvious because there’s no buds on the end of the branch.  And other times it’s obvious because a fungus has grown on the bark and it looks different that all the other branches.  But there’s also branches that have buds from last year, though they’ve died.  You actually can score (scrape) the branch with your hand saw to see if it’s green (alive) or brown (dead or declining).  Keep in mind very little of this can be seen from the ground.  You need to get on top of the branches and up close and personal to decide what comes out.

Dead wood is a part of a tree’s life.  There’s various reasons a limb may be dying or declining, but inevitably some branches will die and they need to be removed.  Isn’t the same true of life?  Wouldn’t you agree that there are areas of one’s life that have died, or are declining, and need to be removed?  In the Bible Jesus says

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit.”  (John 15:2)

We have dead limbs that need to be taken out.  And we have live limbs that need to be pruned so that they produce more fruit.

Are there areas in your life that aren’t bearing fruit?  This Christmas season is about “goodwill towards men.”  Do you have that?  Or are there branches in your life that need to be pruned away because they’re dead?  Maybe you have good limbs that need pruning so that they’ll produce more and better fruit.

I think I have a little of both.  I’m certainly bearing some good fruit.  But I have dead wood that needs to be removed.  I have habits that need to break – sinful actions of thought, word and deed that died when I committed my life to Christ.  Yet they still linger in my life.  I also have live limbs that are alive and healthy, but they need to be pruned so that they can continue to produce fruit.  This is where this lesson gets tough for me.  I have too many irons in the fire.  I need to focus on the important branches, the branches that will produce the most fruit (in relation to my direction in life).  This means some good things need to be pruned away.  It’s not to say that they won’t come back later in life, but right now I need to be focused on establishing family and career.  If it doesn’t produce fruit in those two areas, it probably needs to be pruned away.

As you reflect on the end of the year and the season of giving and goodwill, what branches in your life are dead and need to be removed?  What branches are alive but need to be pruned so that they produce more fruit?

Loss of Innocence

I understand you don’t want to hear any more about Tiger Woods, but I’d be withholding from my readers if I didn’t acknowledge what’s on my mind, and in fact what I’ve discussed with a handful of you.  My brother said it best, “It’s a complete loss of innocence.”  I know I’m kind of a dreamer, even an old-school guy when it comes to this stuff.  I’d even say I’m in denial about pro sports these days.  Here’s a few of the stories that disappointed:

  • Kobe Bryant and that girl in Colorado
  • MJ divorced Juanita after stories of his “women”
  • Brett and his divorce with Packers – he should never have to wear purple, it’s just not right
  • Alex Rodriquez and Barry Bond – two of the greatest players ever – steroids
  • Tiger Woods – the most recognizable athlete in the world, on voicemail trying to dodge his wife

I’m not going to write extensively on this, but as a huge sports fan who understands the importance of positive role models in society, I can’t begin to explain my disappointment.  Nothing is pure.  I know that.  I just really want a good story from one of these great athletes.  Looks like my last hope is Tim Tebow.